The Great Ski Debate

By Claire Barber

Last block, I spent time tabling for FUCC, more politely known as the Freeriders Union at Colorado College. As I sat in the middle of Worner Center collecting email addresses, I became sad and disappointed to realize a lot of my ski friends would be on a different pass — and, thus, unable to hit the slopes with me. 

The “Epic or Ikon?” conversation is probably one of the most heated debates of this year’s ski season. With Arapahoe Basin leaving Epic for Ikon, students have been split on which pass to buy. 

“This year, for pretty much the first time, FUCC is seeing a split where a significant number of members of the CC snowsports community have either an Epic Pass or an Ikon Pass,” Amy Raymond, a FUCC co-chair, said. 

Last year, it seemed that a large contingent of resort skiers or boarders at CC got some iteration of the Epic Pass. Many opted for the Epic Local Pass (with the college student discount). The pass gave students unlimited access to resorts in the Summit County Region, including Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe-Basin, with limited days nearby at Vail and Beaver Creek. The pass also gives access to Crested Butte: the traditional location of the campus-wide ski party “Winter Fest” in the Spring. Many who didn’t buy Epic passes bought specific season passes for resorts, but the Ikon Pass was not a widely popular choice. 

This year, a fan favorite, A-Basin, left the Epic Pass and joined Ikon. The Ikon College Base Pass is cheaper than the Epic Pass, coming at $400 through an all-access FUCC group link. It gives riders five days at A-Basin and unlimited days at Copper Mountain, along with many other resorts across the region. 

The pass conundrum presents a challenge to FUCC. According to Raymond, the club is attempting to organize the FUCC bus (a cheap, five-dollar charter bus that goes out to popular ski areas on Saturdays) to visit both Ikon and Epic mountains proportionally. Additionally, FUCC will be starting a rideshare page specifically for getting rides to resorts in order to keep FUCC resources available to everyone, no matter their pass status. 

All in all, Raymond stressed that “probably the biggest impact this pass divide has on FUCC — and the ski and snowboard community as a whole — is whether or not you can ski with your friends. There’s no overlap between mountains on each pass, so if you and your friend have different passes, it’s very difficult to ski or ride together without someone buying a day pass, which is always hard to justify seeing as season passes are already so expensive.” 

So, the question has become: Epic or Ikon? Some students are getting an iteration of the Epic Pass and adding a five-day A-Basin pass for another $200. Some are saying goodbye to A-Basin for the season, while others are getting a single resort pass. The best choice? Well, that’s tricky. 

While the upfront costs of conglomerate passes seem exorbitant, if you’re skiing most weekends, the price you pay per day is pretty low. 

But, if you’re a novice skier or snowboarder who is looking to bomb around just a little bit, day passes can be upwards of $200, plus gear, plus gas, and plus the leap of learning how to ski or snowboard. Overall, it’s a lot. 

Corporate ski culture has put the industry at a crossroads. It can be prohibitively expensive for the beginner skiers that resorts are seeking, but gives unprecedented access to ski bums looking to explore around the world. 

“At the end of the day, the most important part of skiing is having fun — even more so, having fun with your friends! It’s so cheesy, but so true,” Raymond said. “As the multi-mountain super-passes each grow in popularity and day passes to individual resorts become more expensive, it becomes increasingly difficult to accomplish this very simple goal of skiing. Even more so, it continues to exclude those already under-represented in snowsports, such as people of color. 

And while CC has strived to make skiing or snowboarding more accessible through deeply discounted ORC trips and CCOE resort trainings, ultimately the issue lies deeply in the barriers that stem across the outdoor community — specifically, ski culture is predominantly white and wealthy. 

So, while the “Epic or Ikon?” question remains, a much larger imperative looms: to make skiing and snowboarding a community, not hoards of passholders or novices. It requires far more than what can be explored in a short article — it requires change of systemic practices of racism and disenfranchisement, which create disparities in who is given access to the mountains. The outdoors is a microcosm of class and racial divide in the United States, and the corporate pass culture is a reflection of such values.  

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